09/22/2004 11:00PM

Ageless Stute's legend lives on


POMONA, Calif. - Doug O'Neill won two races at Fairplex Park Wednesday afternoon to give him 11 for the current meet, 30 over the past three seasons, and 40 for his career.

Mel Stute countered by winning the Black Swan Stakes on Wednesday with Kachina Dream, giving him two wins at the meet and 178 for his career.

The trend is clear. At this rate, the 36-year-old O'Neill can catch the 77-year-old Stute if he wins an average of three races at every Fairplex meeting over the next 41 years, providing, of course, that Stute quits right now and O'Neill is still training at age 77. Stute, it should be noted, has no plans to retire.

"I think he might get my record, though," Stute said, referring to the single-season Fairplex mark of 13 winners Mel set back in 1985. "I think he's got quite a few bullets left, and I don't have anything to get in his way."

Granted, O'Neill's pursuit of Stute's meet mark is not exactly lighting up SportsCenter, what with Barry Bonds chasing Babe Ruth and the Red Sox nipping at the Yanks. But any time you approach Stute's Pomona numbers, you are messing with the main man, the cornerstone member of the Fairplex Hall of Fame, and the guy for whom a steak sandwich platter is named at the Top of the Fair Restaurant. O'Neill's Fairplex record, by comparison, is barely an order of fries.

The Stute stable has been a little quiet lately, a far cry from the noise he made over the past two seasons with major stakes winners Perfect Moon and Buffythecenterfold. When the Fairplex meet began, Stute said he thought Kachina Dream had the best chance of adding to his total, and he was right. She won her maiden for $32,000 on Sept. 10 and won the $60,000 Black Swan 12 days later.

Kachina Dream is owned by retired air traffic controller Frank Edmunds and Edmunds's son, Jeff.

"They're from Idaho," Stute said. "Years ago, Frank bought a horse off of one of my clients, a broodmare, and then her baby looked really good. We flew up there, bought her back and gave him a pretty good profit. He's been sending me a horse from time to time ever since."

Kachina Dream is a 2-year-old daughter of the Lyphard stallion Falstaff out of the hard-working Idaho mare Anasazi Mud, a daughter of Shergar's Best who won 9 of her 44 starts. Her pedigree fits well with the list of overachievers that fill the resume of Stute, whose best horses over the past 40 years have worked miracles despite bargain breeding. Champions Snow Chief (by Reflected Glory) and Brave Raj (by Rajab), along with Breeders' Cup winner Very Subtle (by Hoist the Silver) lead Stute's blue-collar brigade.

Stute will be heading for the Maryland auctions this week in an attempt to find another steal like Perfect Moon, who cost him $4,700 as a yearling and brought him $600,000 as a proven 2-year-old stakes winner on the eve of last year's Del Mar Futurity. Perfect Moon, now trained by O'Neill, recently returned to the races with an impressive allowance score at Del Mar. He is by the hot young A.P. Indy stallion Malibu Moon, who was trained by Stute for Wayne Hughes.

"I know I can't duplicate the Perfect Moon deal, but if I can halfway duplicate it I'll be doing all right," Stute said.

At the same time, Stute will be looking over his shoulder. He is still concerned over the health of his older brother Warren, who suffered a stroke earlier this month while tending to his training duties at Del Mar.

Warren Stute, carved out of Indiana granite, is the trainer of such major stakes winners as June Darling, Figonero, Great Circle, Magical Maiden, Grey Memo, and Go Go. He has gone back to work lately, a little slower of step and speech, but determined as ever to be the last man standing.

"He was on the pony at Santa Anita yesterday and galloped down the stretch," Mel said. "I'm not sure he was supposed to, but that's Warren. Then he was arguing with Wayne Hughes this morning over some horse, so he was in pretty good shape."

In fact, Warren's wife, Trudy, confirms that her husband was indeed given the green light by his doctor to get back on a horse. There was no mention of a speed limit, but getting Warren Stute to back off is like trying to flag down a fully loaded runaway semi. On Sept. 30, he'll be celebrating his 83rd birthday.

"He's getting stronger," Trudy said. "He's a real fighter. His speech has come back a lot better than it did after his last stroke."

While Warren has his hands full with his most recent recovery, his wife is in an ongoing struggle with the effects of arthritis.

"It's amazing how much strength you can find when you have to call on it," Trudy said. "The only thing good about this has been that Warren at least slowed down to my pace a little bit. I was having trouble keeping up with him."